Fanni Metelius

Fanni Metelius was born in 1987 in Sweden as has a BFA in film directing and producing, and is a director, screenwriter and actress. Her short films have won many awards and her performance in Ruben Östlund’s feature “Force Majeure” was celebrated. “The Heart”, that had its world premiere at the 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam and in which she also plays the main lead, is Metelius’ debut feature.

Ahead of the European Film Promotion and Sydney Film Festival’s initiative “Europe! Voices of Women in Film,” Tara Karajica talks to Fanni Metelius about women in Film and her latest film, “The Heart,” a refreshing take on the joys and perils of modern love, that is screening at the festival.

 

 

 

How did The Heart come about?

Fanni Metelius: During first year in film school, I had a bad break up. One of the professors, film producer Kalle Boman, found me crying next to the copy machine. He said: “Write about whatever makes you this upset.” So I started writing about our relationship. I wrote about emotional labor and being sexually denied. I thought that I was alone in this kind of problem at my age, and I was really ashamed of the things I wrote about. Later I found out that a lot of young people recognized themselves in the story, and I wanted to make the film as a platform for discussions!

Working on the script was hard for many reasons, the biggest one being the fact that the conflicts were centered around internal complexes and interpretations, and I wanted to stay close to reality and keep the conflicts subtle. But then, I thought about filmmakers that I’m inspired by like Francis Ford Coppola when he made Apocalypse Now or how David Lynch works, and I realized that the films that affected me the most are not cookie-cutter and I took on the challenge to create something unique.

The Heart is a portrait of a new generation of young adults wrestling with intimacy, sexuality and great expectations, but also a film that explores the varying dynamics of a new relationship between two young people, the power games of love and the structures of desire. Why are you interested in these aspects of a relationship? How does your film reflect the new generation and the way they perceive love?

F.M.: Film and images play a great part in creating norms about love and sex. There are so many images of love and female sexuality, and yet I can count the times that I’ve recognized myself . I think Cinema is a powerful tool to show how power dynamics work. There are a lot of tools to play with identification and to show the consequences of subtle conflicts that we tend to think about as everyday conversations. It’s like the audience becomes witnesses of what lies underneath the lines. About the generation thing, a lot of young guys talked to me about the lack of will to have sex, and how liberating it was to see that portrayed on the screen. They also talk about addiction to gaming, depression, and the inability to talk about sex and emotions. Young girls talk a lot about girl power, liberating images, co-dependence, putting themselves aside for the sake of their partner and high identification in the sex scenes. But I’ve met audiences who recognize the sex problem and who are up to ninety years old! I think what is specific about my generation might be that feminism is wide-spread, so that its awareness almost makes it harder for the couple to talk about gender related problems, because there’s this layer of shame that you’re still not liberated.

Why did you want to tell a love story from the female protagonist’s point of view?

F.M.: Because I’m a female!!! No, but what I tried to do in every film is to create images that I haven’t seen before in Cinema. The year that I wrote the film, I read a lot of feminist literature from the ’60s and ’70s, love and life stories from a female perspective, and I realized I hardly ever see this kind of stories on the screen. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film where a woman leaves the relationship in the end! I saw this story as a possibility to create a complex female character that can be both forthcoming and submissive, smart and vulnerable, understanding and sexual. I also think it’s interesting to show strategies for talking around things and controlling the conversations from a female point of view.

Would it be fair to say that The Heart is a feminist relationship drama with a raw and different gaze on modern society? In that regard, you are hailed as a generational auteur. Would you agree with that assumption?

F.M.: Haha! Wow! I think that is a fantastic description of the film and I’ve heard similar things being said before, so I hope there is a bit of truth in it because it’s very nice words! I call myself an auteur because of the way I work and sometimes I describe the film as a feminist coming of age story. About the generational thing, that’s up to the critics and audience to decide!

Are you a feminist?

F.M.: Yes! I don’t believe that everything that is done in the name of feminism today is actually helping the position of women, and I think it is important to create room for questions and critical thinking within the movement. That being said, I’m definitely a feminist, and a proud one, at that!

Why did you cast yourself in the main role?

F.M.: During the casting process, I realized that there was a conflict between the kind of film I wanted to make and the way I wanted to treat the female actress. I had just read the diary of the Swedish actress Lena Nyman and was very sad about the way Swedish journalists treated her, calling her fat and unintelligent because she was not thin, and I didn’t want to put anyone else through that. In the film, I explore vulnerability that is connected to sexualized femininity and I thought that if I did it myself, I’d always know my own boundaries and it just felt like an interesting way to approach sexual images from a female perspective. And if there were any reactions afterwards, it would be like a part of the project.

Can you talk about the title? How does it deconstruct the human heart?

F.M.: We talked about the heart as a symbol for romantic love, but also as the organ that transports blood to other body parts so that it’s possible for us to have sexual connections. We’ve been working with breathing and heartbeats all through the sound design. So, what is really the heart of this relationship? On the poster, there is a lip set on the high edge with the title underneath to play with the thought that there might be another organ in focus here.

A good thing about the Swedish film industry is that it has given a lot of support to young female directors and I’m super grateful for those initiatives; I’ve had a lot of help from that!

Talking about women, what is your opinion of the situation of women in today’s film industry? What is it like in Sweden, a country that is at the forefront of the fight for gender equality in the film industry?

F.M.: We had a gigantic #MeToo movement in the winter, starting with the film and theater industries, but spreading across other branches. The stories from young girls in school stated that things were not getting better with younger age. As long as women and men are not equally paid, valued or equally treated by the legal justice system, I think there will be significant problems in all branches as well as civil life. A good thing about the Swedish film industry is that it has given a lot of support to young female directors and I’m super grateful for those initiatives; I’ve had a lot of help from that! But I think that the more people who are actually asking for a part of the real big money, the more frustration and anger will arise from those who were pro- equality when they didn’t have to share their part of the cake.

How do you think the European Film Promotion and Sydney Film Festival’s initiative “Europe! Voices of Women in Film” will impact your career, your visibility and the promotion of European female film talent in Australia?

F.M.: I love to travel with the film and I learn so much everytime I meet other directors, the audiences and film critics along the way. So I’m very grateful for the opportunity to screen The Heart at the Sydney Film Festival and to be part of this program. I’m looking forward to meeting the other directors; that kind of networking is worth so much! I’m also hoping for The Heart to find its Australian distributor – it would be super cool if the rest of Australia could have the possibility to see it!

Who is your favorite female filmmaker? And your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

F.M.: Jane Campion is one of my big heroes. It feels really cool to visit her country, and to screen The Heart there! I absolutely love The Piano, Holy Smoke, Bright Star, and Top of the Lake!

What are your next projects?

F.M.: I’m writing a new film about female rage and I’m developing a film/TV series that I think could work really well for an internationall audience. But I cant say anything about them yet… I’m going to be behind the camera, not playing – that’s all I can say!

 

 

This interview was conducted in partnership with: 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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